Before Wednesday, only eight players since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 had been named to at least 12 Pro Bowls. That was before the Broncos put two more names on the list.
"And that," said Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, "is the Hall of Fame right there. That's the Hall of Fame, no questions asked, about anything. Twelve Pro Bowls, c'mon, that's great year after great year after great year from those two guys."
When the votes were counted the 12-3 Broncos, riding a 10-game winning streak, had five players selected to the NFL's all-star game with quarterback Peyton Manning and cornerback Champ Bailey each selected to their 12th, both a record for quarterbacks and defensive backs respectively in the post-merger era.
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Linebacker Von Miller, defensive end Elvis Dumervil and left tackle Ryan Clady were the other Broncos selected. Manning, Bailey and Miller, with his first Pro Bowl selection, were chosen as starters in the game.
Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who is seventh in the league with 1,312 receiving yards and tied for eighth in touchdowns with eight, was not selected at what is likely the most difficult position to make the cut. Only four receivers are selected for each team — AFC and NFC — and there are 15 receivers in the league with at least 1,000 yards through 15 games and 13 players with at least 80 receptions.
Thomas was chosen as a first alternate, meaning if one AFC wide receiver can not play in the game, Thomas would be added to the roster. Wesley Woodyard,with 110 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three interceptions, was perhaps the biggest snub, given he was not chosen as an alternate.
"There's a lot of guys on our team that deserve to make it," Manning said Wednesday afternoon. "I know that much."
Guard Chris Kuper, who has missed nine games with injuries this season, was chosen as a second alternate while guard Zane Beadles, special teams ace David Bruton and punter Britton Colquitt were named third alternates. Wide receiver Eric Decker, who is tied for third in the league with 11 touchdowns, is a fifth alternate.
Given a choice, however, all Broncos selected would rather be doing something else Jan. 27 when the Pro Bowl is scheduled in Honolulu. Teams participating in the Super Bowl will not send their players to Hawaii and those spots will be filled with alternates.
With his 12th Pro Bowl selection, Manning passes Brett Favre for most selections by a quarterback. Bailey, who already held the record for most selections by a cornerback, has the most Pro Bowl selections by any defensive back since the AFL-NFL merger.
"I do my thing, and I've done my thing over the years, but when you're on a team like this and you play well, people are going to notice," Bailey said in a statement. "It's really just part of my team and what we've done. That's pretty much why I'm in there. It's definitely a team thing. At some point I want to be able to tell the people at the Pro Bowl that I'm not coming because I'm playing in the big game. That's really what my eyes are on, just making sure we keep winning and get to that big game."
It marks the first time teammates have been selected to their 12th Pro Bowls in the same year.
"One of the key components for being successful in this league, no matter what position you play, is consistency," said linebacker Keith Brooking, a 15th-year veteran. "That's not year to year, month to month, it's every day you come to work and have attention to detail in everything that you do, your approach to this game every day.
"And in return what you get with guys that are talented, have the right mind-set and approach things the right way, you get guys like Peyton and Champ. And it doesn't surprise me at all, those two guys are first-ballot Hall of Fame."
San Francisco (10-4-1) had the most players selected, nine, including six from its second-ranked defense, followed by Houston (12-3) with eight, including six players on offense. And in somewhat of an odd twist the 2-13 Chiefs had as many players as the Broncos — five — selected for the game, including running back Jamaal Charles and three players from its defense, safety Eric Berry, outside linebacker Tamba Hali and linebacker Derrick Johnson.
Manning is the fourth Broncos quarterback to be selected for the Pro Bowl, joining John Elway, Brian Griese and Jay Cutler. Bailey has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times in his nine seasons with the Broncos.
Only Elway, with nine Pro Bowls, and safety Steve Atwater have been named to at least eight Pro Bowls with the Broncos.
"I had followed (Bailey and Manning) and watched their careers from afar before I signed here," Brooking said. "But to be here, to see them every day, how they approach things, how they handle their business day in and day out, it's no surprise. You admire them even more, respect them even more because you see that mind-set they have every day."
Broncos Pro Bowlers
QB Peyton Manning: In first season with Broncos, has thrown for franchise single-season record 34 touchdowns with a game to play.
CB Champ Bailey: Broncos usually start their coverage plans by slapping Bailey on opponent's best receiver.
LB Von Miller: Is third in the league in sacks (17.5) and second in tackles for loss (26).
DE Elvis Dumervil: With 11 sacks, he and Miller are only teammate tandem in league's top 10 in sacks.
LT Ryan Clady:With free agency on the horizon, he is a fourth offensive lineman in NFL history to start every game in first five years and make at least three Pro Bowls.